In Italy we say "non confondiamo l'oro con la tolla!" (= don't compare gold to tin!) when someone compares a (concrete or abstract) high-value thing to a low-value one.

For example:

Joe: "LaTeX è come Word" (= LaTeX is like Word)

Carla: "Per piacere, non confondiamo l'oro con la tolla!" (=Please, don't compare gold to tin!)

Is there an English equivalent one?


Replying to some criticism about my translation of "confondiamo", I'd like to point out that "confondere", literally, means "to confuse". However, in this case, I think that "to compare" makes a better idea.

Indeed, in Italian we have another idiom

non è tutto oro quel che luce

which is the exact translation of

all that glitters is not gold.

The expression

non confondiamo l'oro con la tolla!

is used as a reply when someone puts on the same level two things with different value. Hence, I think that, in this case, "to compare" is more suitable than simply "to confuse".

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Apr 2 '17 at 21:01
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    In English, it is common to say "there's no comparison". – hb20007 Feb 23 at 20:23
  • @hb20007 Thank you for your advice! – CarLaTeX Feb 23 at 20:57

11 Answers 11


Not in the same league is very common:

Joe: LaTeX is like Word.

Carla: They are not even in the same league!

Not in the same league means

Not at the same level or quality as someone or something, much [superior or] inferior to someone (Idiom Corner).

You can compare this with the another sports metaphor in the ballpark, (and the already mentioned not in the same ballpark) which is commonly used to compare location or range. You might say "The costs of using LaTeX vs Word are not in the same ballpark." This comes from the usage of ballpark to mean "a location, area, range; within the boundaries (of the park)". It might be used like this:

Joe: We need a word processor for work. I propose using Word.

Carla: That would be in the right ballpark, but I think we need something more flexible. I suggest LaTeX.

Joe: Whoa! LaTeX is out of our league! We don't have time or the skills to learn how to use that. (or Joe might have said "That's major league!")

The distinction between the two idioms is subtle and comes from usage (since idioms connote something different from their literal meaning).

When you say *She's out of my league" it means you are not good enough for her. From the baseball expression, a minor league player would not be playing in the same game with major league players. (But they could play in the same ballpark.)

  • Thank you, your explanation is very detailed, but not store bought dirt already mentioned your proposed idioms, – CarLaTeX Mar 29 '17 at 6:16
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    I don't normally say this, but the FAQs provide a little encouragement, when voting, to consider the relative quality of otherwise (superficially) equivalent answers. (Also, my vision must be going. I didn't see his one line unelaborated mention of "not in the same league".) I also wanted to provide a distinction between the two terms, so that you might notice that the highlighted answer given by @NSBD is not really the same thing. – Canis Lupus Mar 29 '17 at 6:20
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    Sorry, I didn't know this ELU rule. On TeX.SE, usually, when one want to elaborate someone else's answer, he/she comments the original post asking the author to do it or doing it directly in the comment. BTW, I noticed that someone has downvoted my question without explaining why, this is also not usual on TeX.SE, except for clearly low-quality question. – CarLaTeX Mar 29 '17 at 6:39
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    big league rather than major league if you are Donald Trump – Henry Mar 29 '17 at 21:34
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    LaTeX ain't in the same ballpark as Word, they ain't even the same sport :) – Vim Mar 31 '17 at 10:41

Not in the same ballpark.

It means not good enough to be compared.

or similarly

Not in the same league.

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    Note these are AmE phrases, though 'not in the same league' is occasionally used in BrE and will raise far fewer eyebrows than references to baseball. – OJFord Mar 30 '17 at 11:56
  • How can this be getting up votes after seeing Canis Lupus's strictly better version? – user219159 Mar 30 '17 at 20:09

There is a negative way of expressing this, by negating an expression normally used to group items as similar or roughly equivalent in some way.

For example:

You can also imply the sentiment, for example:

  • "Don't mention them in the same sentence!"
  • "(Item 1) shouldn't be spoken of in the same breath as (Item 2)"

The latter usage depends on the following definition of in the same breath from Cambridge Idioms:

if you talk about two people or things in the same breath, you think they are very similar

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    These expressions seem more similar to the Italian meaning. I prefer this answer also because it isn't vulgar. BTW, the equivalent of "Don't mention them in the same sentence!" is used in Italian, too. – CarLaTeX Mar 28 '17 at 13:18
  • ...but I think that not store bought dirt's answer has beaten yours, at this moment. – CarLaTeX Mar 28 '17 at 16:28
  • worthy to be mentioned in the same breath is also common – Colonel Panic Mar 30 '17 at 14:48

We might use "that's like comparing chalk and cheese".

It's slightly different (I think) in that gold is more valuable than tin, so the Italian version definitely implies a hierarchy.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Apr 2 '17 at 21:01

You could say that the two things are not even on the same level

When two things are on a level:

on a level with
Equal with.
‘they were treated as menials, on a level with cooks’

So when the two are things are not on the same level one is superior to the other.

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    Is this really an idiom, though? It just seems like a regular meaning application of the word 'level'. – user1359 Mar 28 '17 at 16:21
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    I agree with @user1359, you've caught the meaning but your expression is not an idiom. – CarLaTeX Mar 28 '17 at 16:23

Hmm... I suppose that the following are as close as I can think of:

  • You're not comparing like with like
  • Option A pales in comparison with Option B
  • You're comparing apples with oranges

I don't believe that there is a widely known idiom which serves to contrast two things in terms of difference and perceived value simultaneously..

  • Thank you, the second in your listed is good, for the idiom see the accepted answer! – CarLaTeX Mar 29 '17 at 8:55
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    "apples and oranges" is most applicable for specific example of Word vs. LaTeX. – wrschneider Mar 29 '17 at 18:49
  • I would definitely have gone for “apples and oranges”. British is “apples and oranges” while Americans might say “chalk and cheese”. The sports ones (same league and same ballpark) are 100 % American. – Rasmus Apr 4 '17 at 10:29

If one thing is greatly inferior to another, you can say it doesn't hold a candle to it. Alternatively, "can't hold a candle to it."

For example http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170303-whats-the-point-of-remaking-beauty-and-the-beast

The remake doesn't hold a candle to the original.

  • This is a good answer, too! It's similar to the Italian "X non regge il confronto con Y". – CarLaTeX Mar 30 '17 at 14:01

You don't know shit from shinola is an American saying with a similar, although derogatory, meaning.

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    But on Wikipedia they say: "Almost always used in negative constructions to describe someone's ignorance or stupidity, such as: He doesn't know shit from Shinola". The Italian idiom doesn't have this meaning, it's only a disagreement about the comparison, which doesn't imply the ignorance of who said it... – CarLaTeX Mar 28 '17 at 12:53
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    It does imply dissatisfaction (at least in sarcasm) with the person being spoken to. Which is why I said similar and not identical. Among peers (in my experience), this would usually be taken in stride - depending on the delivery. – Davo Mar 28 '17 at 12:59
  • @Davo - but would that apply to the exemple made by the OP, for instance? – user66974 Mar 28 '17 at 13:10
  • @Josh - if I was walking with a friend, it would. If I were in a meeting with a client, it would not. – Davo Mar 28 '17 at 13:12
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    I've never heard of this phrase. I don't think it's well known today. I've heard of all the ones @remnant mentions. – Arm the good guys in America Mar 28 '17 at 13:27

It's not an idiom, but you could also say the inferior thing is not worthy of the comparison.

  • Yes, this is OK, too. – CarLaTeX Mar 30 '17 at 14:56

"All that glitters isn't gold." Seems like a very close idiom.

  • Welcome to EL&U, and thank you for your first answer. Could you improve it by adding why you think it is a close idiom? – rajah9 Mar 28 '17 at 20:00
  • Thanks. It directly compares two things, the intention being one of a real value and one with a surface attractiveness but not of real value. It uses the gold reference as the high value object. Pretty clear to me, very similar to the Gold:Tin comparison. – chuck Mar 29 '17 at 3:57
  • Thank you, chuck, but no, this idiom has not the same meaning of the Italian one. Also in Italy we have "non è tutto oro quel che luce" but this doesn't imply a comparison between two things, it only means that a thing could appear like a high-value one but it's only a low-value one. – CarLaTeX Mar 29 '17 at 6:23
  • I don't know why you keep insisting that "confondiamo" means "compare". – seanmus Mar 29 '17 at 20:37
  • @SeanM As I have already said, literally "confondere" means "to confuse" but in this case I think that "to compare" makes a better idea. However, we could also say "non compariamo l'oro con la tolla!" with exactly the same meaning. – CarLaTeX Mar 29 '17 at 20:49

I take issue with the question as well as most of the answers.

Firstly, the translation of the Italian is wrong. Confondere means "to confuse" and closely resembles the synonymous English word "confound". In fact, the origin of both these words lies in the Latin "confundere". Not only that, but 'con' means 'with' though the distinction may not be meaningful here.

So the example actually translates as:

Joe: "LaTeX è come Word" (LaTeX is like Word)

Carla: "Per piacere, non confondiamo l'oro con la tolla!" (Please, don't confuse gold with tin!)

As for an idiomatic parallel in English, the above answers really aren't satisfactory. As a matter of opinion, I think that Shakespeare probably best captures the crux of the above Italian idiom in his famous line, "All that glitters is not gold." 'Glitter' is obviously used metaphorically. Advanced LaTeX usage usually requires compilation steps that are far more difficult than just using plain Word. What this metaphor would mean is roughly 'Not every word processor is of the same caliber.' Note that in your question it isn't clear which option is tin and which option is gold. This holds true here as well.

Joe: "LaTeX is like Word"
Carla: "All that glitters is not gold." 

Above, Carla's meaning is implied from context which option is the inferior one. A slightly more contemporary alternative would be to refer to the inferior option as "Fool's gold."

Joe: "LaTeX is like Word"
Carla: "LaTeX is fool's gold." 

If we want to venture away from heavy metals, the best idiom that establishes hierarchy of the two options is:

Joe: "LaTeX is like Word"  
Carla: "Please, you don't know which side your bread is buttered."

Note that no matter what expression you choose, as well as the original translation, all imply a deficit in the logic of the person who delivers the unlike comparison. There is no way to escape a negative connotation. Even if 'confondiamo' meant compare (which it doesn't), there would still be a context that implies a deficit in reason.

  • Literally "confondere" means "to confuse" but in this case I think that "to compare" makes a better idea. However, we could also say "non compariamo l'oro con la tolla!" with exactly the same meaning. Another user has already proposed "All that glitters is not gold" and I explained why it's not correct for me. The last two could be good except that LaTeX is gold, not the contrary. – CarLaTeX Mar 29 '17 at 20:43
  • @CarLaTeX Okay, so you dispute an objective fact that "confondere" means "to confuse". You bring in your subjectivity about LaTeX in order to decide the appropriate nature of the comparison, not that it matters, this is about the nature of the idiom, you already know that which is inferior does not matter insofar as the question is concerned. You cite another user as having already said it, yet the pitfall in his reasoning is only that he offered none, as evidenced by the comments below his post. All that being said, you have completely whitewashed the word confondere with your own meaning. – seanmus Mar 29 '17 at 20:51
  • And that whitewashing renders the intention of questions (search for truth) completely moot. – seanmus Mar 29 '17 at 20:51
  • It's not my subjectivity about LaTeX, but the order in the sentence of my example that makes your last two examples the contrary of what I said. They should be good if the example was: Joe: "LaTeX è come Word" Carla: "Per piacere, non confondiamo la tolla con l'oro!" – CarLaTeX Mar 29 '17 at 21:04
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    @SeanM Idioms can rarely be parsed semantically, otherwise they wouldn't be idioms. For this reason, unless you are already familiar with the conversational and idiomatic phrases that an OP provides, semantic arguments like this are pretty much meaningless. – Canis Lupus Mar 29 '17 at 21:16

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